Category Archives: health

Ginger Ale


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Long about the middle of October every year I have to partake of the miracle that is Ginger Ale during pollen season.  And believe me, in Texas, pollen season lasts until the parched grass and dry air sets in again during the droughts of middle July through September.  Sometimes in a wet year (which used to be rarer than now) the tree pollen, mold spores, mountain cedar, and ragweed fill the air year around.  Ginger in any form is a god-sent cure-all for ailments of the lungs, ears, nose, and throat.  It reduces inflammation, dilutes mucus, and helps you restore the breath of life.  I have developed a real taste for ginger products of all sorts as a result of the medicinal boost it gives me every year.  It explains my addiction to gingerbread.  Also why I often put ginger root in a pot on the stove filled with boiling water and then inhale the fumes.  I love Ginger Ale because it makes me feel good.

Simon’s Cat on YouTube is another kind of Ginger Ale for me.  Admittedly it is a mental sort of medicine, not a drink or a cookie or a steam inhaler.  But watching those simple black and white cartoon antics that are so realistically catlike makes me laugh and increases serotonin in the brain, and it provides a very real depression medicine.

Now, I know full well that I am connecting two very unlike things and calling them both Ginger Ale on the mere passing similarity of the medicinal benefits.  But life is far more metaphorical than it is literal.  And that is why I continue to maintain that poets live better lives than the rest of us even if they die young for love of beauty.  And it is better to be a cartoon cat than a literal king.

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Filed under artists I admire, battling depression, cartoon review, commentary, goofy thoughts, healing, health, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Singing the Blues

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People like me, people who depend so much on a sense of humor and a good laugh on frequent occasions, are usually subject to depression.  The bad thing about being up is that eventually, you come down.  And the higher up you go, the further down you fall.

I have learned a great deal about surviving a depression in my time on Earth.  I have been in the emergency room for a sufferer of depression three times, one of those when a child hurt himself.  I have talked people out of a suicidal depression in the middle of the night exactly three times… three very long nights, two of them over the phone, not knowing where the sufferer actually was.  I have had three different family members in psychiatric care, hospitalized for a week, five separate times.  They don’t tell you these things can happen in teacher’s college.  They don’t tell you that sometimes it is part of a teacher’s job to deal with it, both the depression of students in your care and family members subject to the effects of stress in teachers’ lives.

I have lost three former students to suicide. (Typing that line just made me cry again.)  One of my high school classmates ended it all with a gun.  And, of course, we all lost Robin Williams to the deadly darkness of the mind as well.

And I am depressed right now, a depression brought on by a week’s worth of weather-related arthritis pain.  I was also betrayed today by someone whom I thought was a friend.  But before you panic for my safety and call a hotline in my name, don’t worry.  I know the answer.  I fought depression long and hard enough to know where the ladders are in the mythical dark pit of despair.

For one thing, you have to make the sufferer remember the good things in life.  There are people and places and things to do that everyone can use as that wonderful good that you have to live on for.  Listing things you have to stay alive for is a ladder.  I have children still in school.   I have pictures to draw and stories to write before I am through.  There are people I love that I have to live for.  I wrote about one of those yesterday, and I have at least two thousand more.

In fact, I met a former student in the Walmart parking lot the other day.  She had lost her mother to suicide.  She suffered bipolar disorder and depression herself, and in her junior year of high school, we almost lost her.  But she had to stop me and make me recognize her to show me that she has made it.  She is alive and happy, years after the fact.  She is now a rung in my ladder.

When you have to talk to somebody who is dangerously depressed, it is not enough to keep saying that everything is going to be all right.  You have to show them the ladders. It helps to know where the suicide hotline telephone number is posted, or have a copy of it in your wallet.  It helps to know where to find good professional help.  It helps to know that every school has a counselor who will either provide the help or direct that help to you.  That is another important ladder.

Eating chocolate helps, or fruit.   Serotonin levels in the brain are low if you are depressed.  My wife left apple turnovers in the refrigerator for me.  Of course, non-chocolate candy is a bad thing.  A sugar high leads to a sugar crash, and that is worse than where you started.

Singing songs also works for me.  Hence, the novel I am working on is called Sing Sad Songs.  Even singing sad songs increases the oxygen flow to the old brain and helps it think more clearly, sing more melodiously (not odiously), and feel better.  Ladders made of candy and ladders made of song… bet you didn’t see that one coming.  Telling a joke, even a bad one, can make a ladder too.

Writing this blog can be used as a ladder.  As I close in on 700 words, I am feeling better than I did when I started.  So, please, don’t be afraid of the darkness, and don’t let it defeat you.  You can win.  I know it. Because I have walked that path, fallen into that pit, and found the ladder out.

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Filed under battling depression, compassion, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, health, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Naked Innocence

So the time came to make the planned return trip to the nudist park in Alvord, Texas.  I was going to finally get to make my second visit to the place for the Labor Day holiday weekend.  But once again it was not to be.  My daughter caught a virus during her first week of school.  She gave it to me and her brother.  Of course, neither of them were planning to go along, and their mother would sooner find another husband than be naked in a place where other people would see.  They all think I am nuts for wanting to go spend time with other naturists gadding about naked in the hot Texas sunshine.  My wife wants me to get my head examined.  She thinks all the stories about aliens from outer space may have gotten my head artificially replaced by the Men in Black.

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And she may be totally correct in her assessment.  She is a school teacher, after all.  I, probably just like you, was carefully taught to never be seen naked in public because it is probably a sin, and it is definitely against the law, and it is very likely something only crazy people do on purpose.  Never-the-less, I did it once as a writing assignment for a nudist website that told me the review was wonderful and they were definitely going to publish it, and as of this writing, over a year later, they still haven’t done so (though a rival website reblogged one of my nudist posts from this blog).

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I have come to the idiotic conclusion, though, that nudism isn’t sinful if practiced around like-minded people who are also comfortably nude.  I met and talked to nudists last year who were .very easy to get to know.  They were likable and no prettier in the buff than I am myself (and with my psoriasis pink leopard spots I am pretty horrible to look at naked.)  And the nudist park is not a place for sexual goings-on and sinful behavior.  It is a family environment where some people bring their naked kids.

I remember enjoying being naked as a kid even though I had been taught that Jesus is ashamed by seeing my nudity even though he is always watching over me, even when I am in the bathtub.  I remember one time when I was a pre-teen that I took my bicycle to the Bingham Park woods and rode it up and down the trails there completely naked.  And even though I had been carefully taught how evil that was, the cool wind on my skin felt good, and it was glorious to listen to the birds sing in a green wood almost as if it were the Garden of Eden and I was Adam, the first man.  (Hence the illustration of the bare bike boy.)

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It seems to me, now that I am old, retired, and probably at least a little bit senile, that nakedness is really a form of innocence.  I can tell you for a fact from being a parent and having, at one point, worked in a daycare center for ages five and below, that it is actually far easier to get a kid to go completely starkers than it is to get them to put on and comfortably wear clothes.  Nakedness is natural.  And if God had really wanted us to be naked all the time, then we wouldn’t have been born with a full suit of clothes on… er, wait… what?  Nakedness is innocent.  Anything bad that comes from it happens because of the things we have been taught about it as children.  A more enlightened society would probably be naked more than we are, especially inside temperature-controlled sealed environments… like houses, cars, and even spaceships.  Ah, yes, back to the Men in Black and possible head-switching again.  Aliens in their saucers are apparently often naked.  I wonder if Jesus is ashamed by their nudity too?

Anyway, I once again have failed to manage the planned nakedness I had been looking forward to.  I have to settle for the indoor, sealed-environment form of nudity as I am too sick to get to the nudist park, and would promptly be arrested if I tried to walk around the neighborhood like that.  But the failed evil plan did give me something to write about that at least makes me laugh.  And it is an innocent laugh, not an evil one.

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Filed under aliens, goofy thoughts, health, humor, nudes, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Benefits of Having a Virus

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To be perfectly honest, I can’t think of a single recommended use for a virus, either the computer kind or the kind I have right now that floored me for the past five days.  The computer kind damages expensive hardware and ruins expensive software, and serves no purpose I can fathom beyond usefulness in acts of evil.  And I do not recommend getting sick with a virus.  Every viral illness I have gotten over the past two decades has been, for me being a diabetic, potentially fatal.

But the book that Raggedy Clown and Baby Clown are displaying here in a vain attempt at marketing was written during a continuing siege of virally-induced bronchitis… Six times in four years.  Writing benefitted from lost work time and extended usage of sick days from my teaching job.  Some of my most creative work has happened because of bizarre dreams dreamed while having a fever.

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Idiotically I leaped out of bed with a feverish inspiration in the middle of a mostly sleepless night to write down a song, as if I had any business trying to be a songwriter.  I had listened earlier in the evening to a compilation of sad songs on YouTube obtained by typing the words “sad songs of the 80’s” into the search box.  I listened to a totally gawd-awful mess of weepers because in the book I am now writing, Sing Sad Songs, the main character Francois sings almost exclusively only sad songs.  That listening session must have caused just enough brain damage to make me think I could somehow compose a worthy sad song of my own to horrify readers with as an original song written by the character in the book.  Clever idea.  Impossible to carry out with my croaking toad-like musical abilities.  I can probably polish up the poetry to an acceptably awful level, but the tune half-heard in my dream is now completely lost and inapplicable.

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So, on the whole, I would have to say I have been decidedly unwell.  But, overall, it has not proved to be a barrier to my creative work.  It has really only served to make the strange little imaginary realm I live in a little bit stranger.

This is, of course, not a medical dissertation, or any sort of health and wellness advice that I am not qualified to give.  But it would be ironic if lots of people suddenly re-posted this essay and it ended up going viral like my post on visiting a nudist park did.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, healing, health, humor, illness, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Oh, Great! Illness Knows Where I Live!

Portrait from the Jungle

I am desperately trying to recover financially after being sued by Bank of America, forced into a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and being hospitalized in November with heart troubles.  This Spring has found us repeatedly beset by illness as a family.  I mean, I have known for some time that the Grim Reaper has my address penned into his address book.  He knows where everybody lives.  At least those of us who are alive.

But the Third Horseman of the Apocalypse, the one with the scales,  who decides who deserves what and how much we get and how much we forfeit, has also taken notice and recommended that the Fourth Horseman sow a little pestilence in our garden.  I am ill again, for three days now, and my daughter is working on day two, the third illness since being diagnosed with the flu in January.

That Night in Saqqara 2 No one here is asking to live forever, but you would think horsemen could be a little more sympathetic and not layer on quite so thick a layer of never-ending disease.  And yet, I am reminded that I do plan to look at the benefits of the worst things that happen to me in life, and what good things they lead to.  I have been ill enough in my life to become quite good at it.  Arthritis has slowed me, but not stopped me.  I still get around quite speedily, even though I often require a cane to do it.  I am still not on insulin for my diabetes because of my diet and exercise efforts.  I have learned how to cope with illness and keep going in spite of it.

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Now I hope to transfer some of my illness-battling skills to my daughter so we might have at least some hope of her graduating high school in two more years.

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Filed under angry rant, feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, illness, Paffooney

The Doctor’s Bill Comes Due

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I am in the middle of a family health meltdown.  In this time when the yearly flu epidemic is turning deadly, my two kids living at home and still in high school are both home sick.  And I am finding it difficult to pay for illnesses.  My recent trip to the hospital for a faux heart attack has left me staring down an incoming tidal wave of doctor and hospital bills.  I have been paying more for health insurance than ever before.  The lovely caring government has been mucking about with health care issues to the point that, even though I am paying thousands of dollars more per year for health insurance than I did ten years ago, I have huge medical bills that, due to higher deductables, leave more for me to pay as my portion than ever before.  I am paying twice as much for a three day stay in the hospital than I did five years ago when I had pneumonia, and was hospitalized for five days.  The Princess’s doctor visit yesterday cost me $77 dollars.  Number two son goes to the doctor this afternoon, and I have to hope it won’t cost more than that, because I am running out of Uber money for the month.

Gone are the days when I could afford to be sick.  Now, bankrupt and with no credit left to my name, I am going further into the dark lake of debt, hoping for the mercy of lawyers and credit collection agencies.  They may as well grind my bones to make their bread.  I have little else to give them.

If this sounds like a complaint rather than the humor I usually shoot for, well, that’s because that’s what it is.  I am sick and tired of always being sick and tired.  But I have to do my part to help the American economy.  It is really booming right now.  Probably because people like me are investing so much in health care, right before we die because we can’t afford to pay for the medicine the doctor prescribes.

My thanks go out to the ghost of Norman Rockwell for providing the illustrations for this post.  The pictures make me long for the good old days when doctors actually cared, and weren’t just making lots of money.  Of course, it isn’t the doctors who are making most of the money off piratical health-insurance schemes.  Whoever those people are, we never actually see their faces, and the voices we argue with over the insurance help lines are just their employees.  Anyway, I am not myself sick yet.  That probably comes later.  So I will hunker down and burrow my way through a potentially terrible week.

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Filed under angry rant, art my Grandpa loved, artists I admire, artwork, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, illness, pessimism

Weekend Fun with Heart Attacks

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I’m not sure why I decided to have a heart attack over the holiday, but my body decided it was time and didn’t really give me a chance for input.   I should qualify it a little bit. I didn’t have an actual heart attack according to the final tests, but the preliminary tests were all red flags and shouting.

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So, I woke up in the middle of the night on Wednesday night with a pain in the left side of my chest.  My left arm was hurting and tingling with numbness.

Now, it is not something new.  I have arthritis in my rib cage and I tend to sleep on my left side.    So, although the pain was concerning, it was not reason to make a middle-of-the-night dash to the emergency room.  I eventually got back to sleep on my right side.  I was sluggish and ill the next morning, but I got a lot of house cleaning done and the chest pains were gone.

Thursday night the pains returned, but still not different than the arthritis pains that sent me to the cardiologist before, and not nearly as harsh and painful as the night before.   Again the pain went away in the day.

Friday night I picked up my son the Marine at the airport.  He was home on holiday leave.  We talked about my chest pains over a meal at I-hop.  He pulled rank on me and vowed to take me to the ER.  I talked him down to Primacare because it’s cheaper, still not believing it was real heart pain.

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The next morning Primacare didn’t go so well.  The EKG machine there predicted a major earthquake… or a typhoon, or something… and the Prima-doctor got all serious in the face.  “Do you want me to call an ambulance?  We are required to make the offer in these situations.”

“No, no.  My son is with me and can drive me to the Emergency Room.  I promise I will go.”

And so I did.

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At the ER they are very concerned that you don’t have anything in your pockets.  They quickly dressed me in a hospital gown and then surgically removed $200 (due to the wondrous way my insurance company has of not paying their portion of the bill).  So, lighter by that amount, they immediately hooked me up to their own EKG machine.  I had so many patches attached to the hair on my chest that I was guaranteed to be bald-chested when it came time to rip them all off again.  Then they  repeated the EKG testing done earlier in the day.  I swear, the same squirrel that was visiting Primacare when I was there earlier, sneaked into their EKG machine too and vigorously jumped up and down.  So, there it was.  The proof they needed that I had too much money left in my bank account.  And so they put me inside the hospital.

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Once inside, they rigged me up so one arm could be crushed by a BP sleeve every two hours, or more if they felt like it, and the other arm could be drained of blood so that they could tell if there was any further money in my bank account.

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Three days later, the enzymes in my blood said that what I had was mysterious and not a heart attack.  The stress test I had on Monday nearly killed me, and told them that I didn’t have enough money left in my bank account to keep in the hospital any longer.  I got out still wearing my arm band and allergy warning band as reminders that I really, really didn’t want to go back, but life is like that, and I still don’t know what caused it all, or if I will have to return to deal with it later on.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, humor, illness, Paffooney